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Fillmore County declares disaster emergency

Mon, Jun 5th, 2000
Posted in

Monday, June 5, 2000

Following heavy rains and flooding in several areas of the county, the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners met in emergency session on Thursday, June 1, to declare a disaster emergency. The county will open an Emergency Operations Center at the new county office building to mobilize relief activities.

There was widespread damage from heavy rains and flooding throughout the region as the south fork of the Root River overflowed its banks and spread over thousands of acres of recently planted fields in eastern Fillmore County and Houston County causing extensive damage and heavy crop loss.

• In Spring Valley, flooding occurred throughout the downtown business area, with 25 houses affected by flood waters. Three residents needed to be evacuated by boat. Approximately 6,000 sandbags were used in the city. The Red Cross was opening an office in Spring Valley as of Friday, June 2.

• It was reported that approximately 75% of houses in Mabel had water in their basements and there were several mudslides in the area.

• In Harmony, a diesel or fuel oil leak contaminated the sewage lines and created problems when water backed up into basements. One business was reported to have had over 1,000 gallons of water pumped from its basement. The MPCA has been notified of the situation and are working with city officials.

• Sandbagging was carried out in Lanesboro as flooding near the football field threatened the Methodist church and nearby houses.

• The county highway department reported several roads closed and a number of bridges out due to flooding. Dave Nelson of the Fillmore County Highway Department said that overall assessments are difficult to make due to high water.

• The DNR closed the Preston-Harmony trail due to wash outs near bridge #6.

• The emergency declaration is a formal procedure that could potentially qualify the county for federal assistance. According to Craig Strand of the Minnesota Division of Emergency Management (MDEM), once an assessment of the damages to public and private property are made, an application for assistance can be made to the state.

"The state doesn't have a rainy day fund," Strand told the county board, "but the state can request federal assistance from the president." Strand said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington looks at total dollar damages as well as the impact the disaster has on the people in the affected area in making its recommendation to the president.

Strand said that it's an iffy proposition as to whether Fillmore County would qualify for federal assistance. He noted that the Lewiston failed to qualify a year ago when it was dealing with tornado damage.

Strand recommended that the county do three things:

• Coordinate a county wide assessment of the damages to public and private property. Strand advised that the county meet with city and township officials to get an overall sense of the damages.

• Set up a emergency operation center to coordinate relief activities.

• Put in place mitigating measures, such as emergency shelters and other essential services in the event that the public needs to be evacuated to safety.

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